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Scientists have found the key to making an open relationship successful

Patrick Kelleher November 1, 2019
Key to open relationship is communication, study shows

Jean Baptiste/Pexels

Researchers at the University of Rochester have found the key to making an open relationship work, and it’s about as simple as you could imagine.

The key, researchers say, is good communication between partners.

The research – which has been published in the Journal of Sex Research – looks at various types of relationships and determined which ones were the most successful.

The team of researchers analysed responses from 1,658 online questionnaires. Most of those surveyed were in their 20s and 30s and 70 percent of respondents were women.

Open relationship couples who communicate effectively tend to be happy and comfortable with each other.

They found that couples in monogamous relationships, as well as those in “consensual non-monogamous” relationships, are the highest functioning. For the purposes of the study, researchers classified “consensual non-monogamy” as relationships where both partners are comfortable and happy about being in an open relationship, and where partners communicate effectively about sex with others.

Meanwhile, couples in “one-sided sexual relationships” – where one partner wants monogamy and the other has sex outside the relationship – fared badly. Researchers found that people in these relationships had “almost no communication” about sex with others and had low levels of mutual consent.

Secrecy surrounding sexual activity with others can all too easily become toxic and lead to feelings of neglect, insecurity, rejection, jealousy, and betrayal, even in non-monogamous relationships.

The research also found that couples in monogamous and consensual non-monogamous relationships had low levels of loneliness and distress, whereas couples who had less communication struggled more.

Most respondents who were in consensual non-monogamous relationships reported as being “mostly heterosexual”, but many said they were open to sex with people of the same gender of them. A high number in this cohort also identified as bisexual.

Secrecy in a relationship can become ‘toxic’, researchers say.

“We know that communication is helpful to all couples,” said Ronald Rogge, head of the lab where the research was conducted. “However, it is critical for couples in non-monogamous relationships as they navigate the extra challenges of maintaining a non-traditional relationship in a monogamy-dominated culture.

“Secrecy surrounding sexual activity with others can all too easily become toxic and lead to feelings of neglect, insecurity, rejection, jealousy, and betrayal, even in non-monogamous relationships,” he continued.

Rogge also said that relationships where one partner wants monogamy and the other doesn’t – and where one partner has sex outside the relationship anyway – can be seen as a form of cheating.

“And that, understandably, can seriously undermine or jeopardise the relationship.”

More: communication, dating, open relationships

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